The Wiener Schnitzel tops the menu of almost every Austrian restaurant that holds its reputation dearly. With its golden breadcrumb coating and juicy veal inner the term Wiener Schnitzel is a protected geographical indication. But of course the world would not settle for one kind of schnitzel.
A real Wiener Schnitzel is made with nothing other than veal, dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and pan fried in clarified butter (Butterschmalz). Schnitzel from other meat with the exact preparation, must be called Wiener Schnitzel from Pork (or Turkey or Chicken) or Schnitzel nach Wiener Art (Schnitzel Viennese Style).
Conflicting stories exist on where the Wiener Schnitzel gets its name from. The most popular is that it has its origins in the 1800’s in Milan, Italy where the Austrian General Joseph Radetzky (immortalised by Johann Strauss I’s famous Radetzky March) ate a veal cutlet covered in breadcrumbs and fried in butter. He reported his culinary “discovery” to the Austrian imperial rulers who had the recipe and technique “perfected” in Vienna.
Many versions of the original Wiener Schnitzel exist today. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.
Jägerschnitzel (Hunter’s Schnitzel)
This cutlet of veal or pork suprisingly has no flour, egg and breadcrumb coating. Instead it’s topped with either a tomato or cream based mushroom sauce, often with a hint of sweet paprika.
Zigeunerschnitzel (Gypsy Schnitzel)
A schnitzel from mostly pork, but also veal, chicken or turkey, covered in a tomato based sauce with sliced bell peppers, onions and sweet paprika. The recipe probably dates back to the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when peppers from Hungary became well-known.
Rahmschnitzel (Cream Schnitzel)
This one also comes without the flour, egg and crumbs. It lies in a thin, cream sauce and is often served with Spätzle, a soft egg noodle or dumpling.
Probably the one General Radetzky had over 100 years ago. It’s prepared in the same way as the Wiener Schnitzel, but the veal cutlet is thicker and the bone left in.
A classic French schnitzel, without the breadcrumbs. The thinly pounded veal is covered in flour and dipped in egg before it is fried to golden brown perfection.
Even this well known Swiss dish is family of the schnitzel. The meat is stuffed with ham and cheese before it gets its coating of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. After the Wiener Schnitzel, it’s the second most popular schnitzel in Austria.
How to prepare the perfect Wiener Schnitzel
- 4 veal cutlets (thickness of about 1 cm) from the rump or shoulder
- 2 eggs
- 100 g all purpose flour
- 100 g fresh breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper
- Clarified butter
- Slice of lemon
- Heat the butter in a pan to an ideal heat of between 160-170°C.
- Beat the cutlets with a meat pounder until they are thinner.
- Season with salt and pepper. Cover in flour, dip in beaten egg and cover with fresh breadcrumbs.
- Now comes the tricky part. Take care not to handle the schnitzel too much to ensure a “fluffy” crumbing when fried. Gently slip the schnitzel into the pan. It should literally swim in the fat to cook evenly.
- Once golden brown all around, remove and place on a paper towel to absorb excess grease.
- Squeeze some lemon juice over once on the plate.
The Wiener Schnitzel was traditionally served with parsley and butter potatoes, but most restaurants now also serve it with chips or potato salad. An authentic Austrian touch is a serving of lignonberry jam on the side. The drink most commonly consumed with Wiener Schnitzel? Well, beer of course!